Review Summary: Completely dazzling, fulfilling and layered album that was well worth the wait.
Brand New, surely the most elusive of modern rock acts. The disinterested could be forgiven for thinking that they broke up shortly after the release of 2003's 'Deja Entendu', arguably the best record that year and inarguably incredible. Brand New let their star burn out as they retreated back into themselves, leaving behind a hardcore fanbase who spent the next three years sleeping with one eye open, hoping to catch a glimpse of a band who seemed to have forgotten just how much everyone loved them. But this year brought change. Suddenly the website was being constantly updated, fans were at last given hope by the announcement of a new album to come in November, and a sold-out one-off show at London's Brixton Academy put Brand New back on music lovers' radars, and not a moment too soon.
Well, November has arrived and as promised, the world is delivered the new album, entitled 'The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me', and I think it's fair to say that this masterpiece was worth the wait.
Album opener and first single 'Sowing Season (Yeah)' has been knocking around on the Internet for several months now, and few tracks could have leant more weight to Brand New's spectacular comeback. A bitter, explosive track, it carries all the hallmarks of Brand New at their best, mysterious lyrics, crashing guitars, and that famous Lacey vocal; a voice that could make you break down even if it were singing about the Care Bears. Bridge lyrics 'I am not your friend, I am just a man who knows how to feel' are so heartbreakingly sung that they instantly bring back memories of that Brixton gig and five thousand blissfully happy people screaming out in mimic to Mr. Lacey's every word.
Before you know what's happening, second track 'Millstone' has begun, fairly mellow verse accompanied by pounding steady drumming and followed by a chorus of iconic proportions, instantly singable and even more instantly likable. 'Millstone' flows almost seamlessly into the mellow and enchanting 'Jesus'. It's a lyric-orientated song, reminiscent of tracks such as 'The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot' from Deja Entendu, and is delivered with all the conviction of a band who truly believe in the power of a gentler song.
The measured madness of 'Degausser' follows, a track so clever, so layered, that it sucks you in and won't let go until Brand New have dragged you through one of their most vitriolic and complex songs. A choir join Jesse Lacey to cry out 'take apart your head', while backing vocals whisper and taunt in speech below the writhing guitars and bass. Closing verse/bridge 'take me, take me back to your bed, I love you so much that it hurts my head' is sung with such feeling that it is impossible to think of anything but the pain in that voice, and the joy of a song meticulously written and executed.
Fifth offering, 'Limousine' begins softly before letting itself crash into a chorus to close your eyes and nod your head to. In fact the whole song is really designed for that live performance moment where everyone needs a break from the sweat and blood, to stand and murmur the recurring lyrical line 'I said I love you so much, but do me a favour baby, don't reply, 'cause I can dish it out but I can't take it'. 'Limousine' is a moment of solitude, sadness and feeling to cherish.
'You Won't Know' affords the listener no such rest, for after the obviously temporary quiet of the opening, it descends into instrumental insanity, vocals barked out over some of the most textured guitar and drum work to be found on the album. The band's deft use of sharp changes in dynamics keeps this track interesting, and carries the listener straight through into the instrumental 'Welcome To Bangkok', a short track that could be easily to compared to other instrumental song heavyweights like The Hope Of The States' brilliant opus, 'The Black Amnesias'. It's thick and husky, and before you realise it, it's gone.
Eighth track 'Not The Sun' has something of the radio-friendly about it, or as close to that as Brand New come. The 'would you be my babe' chorus is positively catchy, and is supported effortlessly by a fuzzy, prominent bass line. A change of pace in the bridge keeps the fire lit under this track burning, and gives the listener another chance to hear that addictive intro again, before the track cuts itself off to make way for next song, the haunting 'Luca'. Twiddling acoustic guitar and a high, wandering vocal melody make for an offering that throws something new into the album's boiling pots of sounds. 'Luca' lures in the unsuspecting with promises of quiet reflections, and you can imagine first-time listeners turning their volume dials up and up before having their ears ravage by the explosive and bitter closing moments.
'Untitled' is a brief departure from the norm, being an interlude consisting of a repeated vocal sample, and little else. It rolls the listener easily into 'Archers', the only track on 'The Devil and The God' that has any flavour of Brand New's debut album, 'Your Favourite Weapon'. It exhibits a more traditional song structure and youthful punk sound, but doesn't suffer for this. It isn't the track your going to play over and over again because it just isn't as stand-out musically speaking, but it still manages to hold it's own in an album that so far hasn't made any room for echoes from the past.
'Handcuffs', has the same haunting beauty to it that 'Luca' holds; the minor key opening strummings glossing over dark lyrics such as 'I'd drown all these crying babies, if I knew that their mothers wouldn't cry'. The second verse brings with it a heavy bass part and wistful violin, that give a sense of anticipation to 'Handcuffs'. No matter how many times you've heard this track, it still holds a sense of mystery and unknown. In short, it sounds like anything could happen before it ends- a delicious and little-used musical device that keeps this track from fading into the background. A worthy closer to the album proper.
UK versions of 'The Devil and God' have the added pleasure of 'Luca (Reprisal Version)' as track thirteen. It's the same guitar work here, but a new set of lyrics and a slightly more sleepy, misty feeling to the way the song is delivered. It rounds off the album effectively, leaving the listener with a sense that this album should not stop at its final track, but should be played again and again, promising new joys and discoveries with each repeat listen.
Brand New have done it. They've written the album they obviously worked their hearts out to make, and it justifies the three year wait, and the silence from the band themselves. There is nothing cheap or cliché here, it's pure unadulterated musical genius, without any of the pretence or cocky swagger exhibited by many of Brand New's contemporaries. It sounds like the music of four people who understand that in order to write a great, timeless album, you have to put everything you have into it, even if that's terrifying, even if that means cutting yourself off from your fans and reaching inside to places you've never explored before. Brand New have done all this, and more, and the aural results are astounding. A magnificent manifestation of heart and soul. Welcome back, Brand New.